Biochemistry Students Take an In-Depth Look at Molecular Structure of Adrenergic Receptors

Posted on 11/18/2011 2:45:50 PM

Students enrolled in upper-level Biochemistry courses will study the latest structure of the alpha-adrenergic receptor as part of a literature project designed to bring primary research into the course.

Adrenergic receptors of various types and associated proteins are the natural targets of adrenaline as well many widely-used drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, asthma medications, and others These receptors are part of a larger class of proteins known as G-protein coupled receptors, which have been difficult to study since they are buried in the cell membrane. For a long time, the only known structure for these proteins was rhodopsin with the same basic structure of a GPCR protein, although it lacks the ability to be activated and inhibited by reversibly binding molecules such as hormones and drugs.

Recently, the structure of first a β-adrenergic receptor (2007) and now an α-drenergic receptor (2011) have been reported in the journal Science. These recent structures of adrenergic receptors hold the promise of more productive drug designs and treatments for many diseases and conditions now treated by drugs with side effects due to wide-array of similar adrenergic receptors important to human health and function from taste and smell to the fight or flight response.

Learn more about these important molecules: Molecule of the Month: Adrenergic Receptors 

Left: B-adrenergic receptor. At right: Rhodopsin
adrenergic receptors